Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Eden Revisited

More from J. Russell Smith's brilliant essay "The Agriculture of the Garden of Eden..."

"Since we are all more or less lazy, and only some of us are religious, it is forsooth amazing that our efforts at being restored to Paradise have been limited so exclusively to the domain of religion. This is the more peculiar because the religion has to be taken on faith, while the agriculture of Paradise could be seen and felt and tasted, and that without labor. Even yet no one has striven to restore it for the relief of a weary world. It is high time the husbandman took up his Scripture."

Smith was an economic geographer, but you could be forgiven for thinking of him has an ecologist, a sociologist or even a theologian. His writings span all of these. (Which, come to think of it, is another reason why someone so brilliant become known only within small circles and has since been almost completely forgotten: People who are difficult to categorize seem to be easier to discount. Of course the other reason he is not more widely known is that he was decades ahead of his time in his thinking and writing.)

In the essay Smith goes on to describe Eden as Babylonian story, with Paradise being a date palm oasis in an otherwise blistering landscape. He laments, "How terrible was the expulsion! Within was shade, of which the scriptural writers speak so often and so appreciatively, because they had so little of it in their hot and arid landscape. Without, the shimmering heat, the withering sun, beating down... Into this they were driven to eat the herb of the field, which indeed they could not get without much sweat in their faces."

We humans, collectively, had paradise. We had a well-fed, peaceful, happy life among the trees, enjoying their shade, clothing and feeding ourselves with their bounty with little sweat and less toil.

What in God's name happened? It's a theme I keep coming back to, with no good answers.
Any thoughts?
I'll pick this theme up again tomorrow.

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